Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Inaugural Sunset Strip Half Marathon

I'm a nerd. I love Star Wars. When I saw that Star Wars Celebration would be in California I started making plans immediately. It just so happens that there was a sale on flights and Sam asked if I wanted to take a trip to LA. Considering I already had the dates in mind we booked our trip and made arrangements to stay with my pledge daughter Melanie. And because I never pass up the opportunity to run in a new state I started scouring the interwebs for any interesting races during our trip. For months now Sam has been talking about how much she wants a guitar shaped medal. She really wanted to run the Mississippi Blues race but we couldn't make it happen this year. As soon as I saw the Sunset Strip Half Marathon had an electric guitar shaped medal I knew it was meant to be.

These are the droids you're looking for
The only problem was that the only way to earn that medal shaped guitar was to run the half marathon and considering Sam and I would be running the Chi Town Half just a week prior I knew it would take some convincing.  I asked her if she preferred to do the 5k or half and she chose half. After thinking it over I decided to just take the leap and register both of us for the half marathon. 

Our flight out to LA was mostly uneventful, aside from the kid behind me who kept kicking my seat. We grabbed our rental car and headed to Mel's place. The very next morning I had to be at the convention center bright and early for my first shift at SW Celebration. I've worked conventions and run a race in the same weekend before, but never a half marathon. I was concerned about whether or not I'd be able to keep a fast enough pace to avoid the dreaded sag wagon. 

ready to run, reppin the midwest!
On the morning of the race Sam and I made our way to the Sunset Strip just as the sun was starting to rise. As we stood in line for bag check I ran into a kid I went to high school with. This was his first half marathon and I wished him luck before heading to the start line. We got off to a good start but as soon as we finished that first out and back then turned the heat was really starting to build. I'm so glad I decided to wear a tank top because we were definitely not prepared for how hot it got. We probably also weren't hydrated properly considering the weather situation. 

And then the hills. Those disrespectful West Hollywood Hills. Good Lord. We weren't ready. Sam and I turned a corner to be confronted with a hellacious peak we had never before encountered. It felt like we were ascending Mt Everest. We basically complained the entire way up and kept telling anyone who would listen that we were from Chicago and clearly not prepared for this kind of elevation. The laughing helped distract us from the pain of climbing that hill. 

Along the way we stumbled upon a new friend named Vince. He told us about his adventures running the LA Marathon and kept trying to recruit us to come back and join him in 2016. For a minute I was almost ready to register. But then I reminded myself that I just simply couldn't face those hills again. When we finally reached the downhill it was so steep that I could barely feel my legs as I flew down. I'm by no means a physics wiz but I was pretty sure that my forward motion was more than my body was ready for. I was relieved when we reached the bottom and I didn't fall.  

A great part of this race was the history along the way. There were signs along the course indicated historically significant sites and what happened there. I've never been to that part of LA so it was really great to explore a new area, especially when the sites are already marked for you!

Sam and I had a great time laughing and telling stories with Vince until we finally reached the last stretch before the finish line. Sam had arranged for her Irun4 buddy Jamaica to meet her a block before the chute so they could cross the finish line together. They took off as soon as Jamaica saw her, but Vince and I weren't far behind. It was truly a photo finish moment all around.

Of course we couldn't leave LA without doing a little hiking as our active recover the day after the race. My legs felt surprisingly good but a few of those uphills were a little tough. Being up at the top of Runyon Canyon and just taking everything in was so peaceful. It reminded me that I need to get out and enjoy nature a little more. I haven't been spending enough time outside just appreciating it.

Aside from all the running, sightseeing and Star Wars, we also made some time to enjoy the local breweries. I've become a bit of a craft beer enthusiast so we took full advantage while we could. I've included a few glamour shots to induce jealousy ;)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chi-town Half Marathon

Pre Race with my Chicago Running Family
Occasionally I can be convinced to run a race simply because one of my friends will be there running that distance for the first time. That was the case for the Chi Town Half Marathon. It wasn't part of my original race schedule, but when Claire told me she had chosen it as her first half...well of course I had to be there. It didn't hurt that the medal looked pretty sweet too ;)
Claire's first half!
I also enjoy the opportunity to run a course that isn't the museum campus/lake front path area. This race started/ended in Lincoln Park and went north to about Montrose. Sam and I were about a month recovered from our marathon and still had a few lingering pains. Luckily it was a pretty smooth course with great support. There was a water main break which caused the organizers to alter the course on the fly but they did so expeditiously and most people didn't even notice the change. 
Stopping for the scenery...

We took it nice and easy (didn't want to get too crazy considering Sam and I would be running another half the following week in LA). Per usual we stopped for pictures and just enjoyed the course. Nothing overly spectacular about this race. It was well organized and swag was decent but I don't think I need to do it again. 
Bling! (please ignore all that sweat on my nose)
The usual suspects...Sam, Umber, Freddie, me and Amber
Post race, as is our tradition whenever I run with Denise, we went out to Margie's for sundaes. That was really the best part about this whole day. 
did someone say ice cream?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Shamrock Shuffle 2015

In Chicago where the winters are brutal, running outdoors becomes less and less appealing as the days get shorter and colder. I spent most of the worst days at the gym working on strength training or swimming and hit the streets as soon as the weather hit the 30's.

After the Little Rock Marathon all I was looking forward to was warmer temps and reuniting with running family. I couldn't wait to feel the pavement under my feet and the wind though my hair as winter begins to give way to spring. For most of us, we can't wait for the Shamrock Shuffle because we know that's the unofficial start of the outdoor running season.

Last year for the Shamrock Shuffle I ran some of my fastest miles. Going into the race this year I had no expectations, I just wanted to have fun. The swag was the best I've seen for this race so far and they even included a finishers medal. On race morning I met up with the rest of the Midwest Vikings as we tried to stay as warm as we could before heading to the starting line. In true Viking fashion we all started together but as we passed the starting line we each broke into our respective paces. Typically I run with Jenny or Sam but none of my usual pace buddies were there so I elected to try and keep pace with my teammate Tony. He's a much faster runner than me so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do it but I figured it was at least worth the try.

We started off at a pretty good pace and by the end of the first mile I was still feeling good but could definitely tell that the faster pace was taking a bit of a toll on me. Because this is a distance I've done before I knew I could finish the entire race without any breaks. Tony usually runs at a quicker speed but takes breaks so running a little slower with me allowed him to keep running the entire time without stopping. While it wasn't a PR for him in terms of time it was the first race that he was able to keep running the entire time. We helped push each other and it got me a new PR even if only by a matter of seconds.

Sometimes it isn't how fast you go but what you learn along the way.